Covid-19 has been keeping the world in suspense for a year now, with much suffering and harsh cuts. But it is not all bad. Many habits that we have acquired during the pandemic are worth keeping in the future. These habits have a positive effect on you and your fellow human beings, but also have a lasting effect on the environment.
Adopting a new habit usually takes some enthusiasm and perseverance. You have to be able to cope with setbacks and overcome your weaker self again and again until the new routine has become part of your everyday life.
But the Covid-19 crisis forced us to change many of our habits. Some of these seemed reasonable to us for safety reasons and self-protection. Others we sought out to better cope with a changed daily routine and isolation, or we could simply go without them quite comfortably.
Many of these new habits have a positive effect on you and those around you. Now it is important to maintain this behavior even if the situation changes again at end of lockdown, contact restrictions or the permanent home office.
Ten of these habits I’d like you to keep in particular!
1. Shop less clothes
Normally, consumers in Germany buy around 60 items of clothing per year. According to estimates by the Textile Trade Association, about half a billion(!) items of clothing were not sold during the lockdown winter. Insanely, it is cheaper to destroy these clothes than to donate them. Storing them until the next winter is not even considered, because this creates further costs and the next collections are pushing into the shops.
If you wore stuff in lockdown for a long time because it was comfortable and well made, stick with it! Buy rare high quality and ecologically produced favorite pieces, instead of many cheap pieces that quickly lose their shape and are loaded with chemicals. The pandemic could be your opportunity for more conscious clothing consumption.
Crafts like darning and mending have come back, party because we have more time for them. This is especially nice because it also expresses love and appreciation for your clothing. Especially “visible mending”, where you visibly cover holes and stains with embroidery, gives your clothes an individual character.
You’ve often worn your clothes longer than usual in the home office before putting them in the washing machine? Stick with it. Even if it’s just single days, you’ll save water every time.
In fact, there are some fashion experts who insist that real jeans shouldn’t be washed at all. If, like me, you’re not (yet) comfortable with this eco-friendly practice, washing your jeans only every two weeks is definitely enough. Often, airing out your clothes or storing them in the freezer already does the job.
2. Home office
In the Netherlands, a “right to home office” was already enforced in 2015 against the protest of employers. For reasons of infection control, a regulation has also been issued in Germany in 2021, according to which home office should be done “where it is possible” and “if the activities allow it”.
According to calculations by the Institute for Applied Work Science in its “Report on Mobile Work” if 10% of the workforce (3.03 million) worked from home one day a week, we could save 4,532,880,000 kilometers of commuting between home and work, 133,320,000 hours of travel time and 853,248,000 kilograms of CO2 per year. These are very impressive figures and a good reason to negotiate with your employer to keep home office days even after the lockdown.
Driving and searching for a parking spot in the city are annoying and many people do not feel safe from contagion on public transport. In Hamburg, in August and September 2020, the proportion of cyclists increased by a third compared to the previous year. When you ride a bicycle, you not only save fuel costs, protect the environment and reach your destination fasterespecially on short distances). You also burn calories, build muscle and exercise in a way that is easy on your joints.
Surprisingly, a study by the Healthy Air Campaign, King’s College London and Camden Council in London concluded that cyclists are significantly less exposed to air pollution from traffic than pedestrians, car drivers or bus passengers.
4. Exercise outside
Just the other day I heard someone say that he would never want to go for a walk again after the pandemic. I can even understand that. If walking is the only thing you do to get out in the fresh air, it can be monotonous. But many people specifically meet others to go for a walk. This is because in the fresh air, the risk of Covid-19 infection is significantly reduced compared to indoors. Walk & talk teleconferences are also becoming more popular as a way to incorporate exercise in the workday.
Since the first lockdown, ping pong tables in parks have also become populated again. Inline skates have been dusted off, joggers can be seen everywhere, and the city’s outdoor fitness equipment is finally being used. What else is there to do when the gyms are forced to close? But instead of simply returning to your gym when it reopens, you should consider continuing to exercise outdoors.
The advantages for the environment are obvious: If you work out outdoors, you don’t need electricity or heating, and you usually don’t have to travel to the gym.
Exercising in the fresh air also has personal benefits for you. Fresh air strengthens your immune system. Cool air moistens the mucous membranes of your respiratory tract and makes them less susceptible to cold viruses.
Your body makes vitamin D when you spend time in the sun. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating your calcium levels and building bones. Exercising in nature also lifts your mood and helps relieve stress.
5. Less make-up
Home offices and mandatory masks have caused the makeup industry to see a severe drop in sales. Even while many people spend all day in Zoom meetings and see themselves on the screen.
In fact, it also seems to be a matter of getting used to it. The more often you see yourself and even stars like Alicia Keys without makeup, the more normal it becomes. In addition, you save time, money and resources.
If you’ve taken the opportunity to go without makeup for a while, you may have already noticed positive effects. Without makeup, your skin has a chance to regenerate and your pores can shrink. The less makeup you wear, the less toxins you apply that irritate your skin. Therefore, stick to it and don’t use makeup or use less makeup. If you don’t want to go without makeup altogether in the future, weigh it out. What occasions do you wear makeup for and does it really need to be a daily routine?
Your skin will thank you for giving it the possibility to breathe!
6. Puzzles and games instead of Netflix
The last time I did a puzzle was in the 80s with my grandpa. Suddenly, because of lockdown, it’s not just kids who are puzzling. Because of this, “puzzle 1000 pieces” is one of the top search terms at online retailers. It makes sense. After all, if you sit in front of a video conference all day, you don’t want spend your evening watching TV. And who else hasn’t already watched finished all levels of the Netflix game?
Most recently, streaming service providers in particular have been criticized for their high CO² output. Watching online videos emitted more than 300 million tons of CO2 worldwide in 2018 – as much as Spain in one year. That’s why people should stick to offline hobbies more often. Jigsaw puzzles are great to share with other enthusiasts and neighbors, no need to buy new ones all the time.
In the same way, board and card games are booming during the pandemic. Sales of parlor games increased by around 21 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. Of course, games are primarily a therapeutic tool against boredom. In the meantime, however, the gaming landscape is so broad that everyone should be able to find a game that they really enjoy and that doesn’t just help them kill time.
Playing games and doing puzzles are such nice sociable and decelerating activities that you should plan post-pandemic game nights as well!
7. Meal planning
Yeah I know, planning meals in advance sounds stressful and not very joyful at first. Meal planning has many benefits! Many people have started doing this because of the pandemic in order to reduce shopping time and minimize the risk of exposure.
According to the BMEL nutrition report, 55 kg of food is thrown away per capita in Germany every year. So buy only what you really need for your meals. Then you should be able to stay well below this immense amount. With a plan for your meals, you always use everything you buy in the near future for the planned meals.
You also save time and reduce your mental load. Once pre-planned, you don’t start every day again thinking about what you would like to have or what still needs to be bought. Especially when a family needs to be fed, you save yourself daily discussions.
It is also a good idea to look at the seasonal calendar before creating the weekly plan, to see what is available regionally and to plan your meal with it. If you’re missing a fancy template, you can download our meal planner right now and get started!
8. Write letters
At first glance, it is not more sustainable to send a letter than an email. The sustainable shopping cart has calculated that sending a letter causes on average about twice as much CO² as sending an email. Paper, ink and shipping generate about 20 g CO², while the email generates about 10 g CO². By the way, with an email it depends very much on which electricity is used in the data center, whether you read the mail on your phone and how long you store it.
Unfortunately, there is also a so-called rebound effect, which partially cancels out the savings that initially result from the email. In the time it takes to transport the snail mail, numerous emails can be written back and forth. And what’s the chance that we’d write all these emails if we had to write each of them by hand?
The handwritten letter has other advantages. First of all, it is of course much nicer than an email. But a study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (2020) also shows that writing by hand causes more activity in the sensorimotor areas of the brain than typing on a keyboard. The brain needs such challenges to develop its full potential in all areas.
In addition – and this is actually the most important thing – there is the simple pleasure of receiving a real letter once again, that’s not bills or advertisements. Children and older people have the time to write back and are very happy to do so. Covid-19 and the accompanying contact restrictions have made especially many old people very lonely.
If you would like to write a letter, but have no one who would be happy to receive mail, Post mit Herz helps you to find someone against whose loneliness your letter helps. Pia from Pias Kids keeps looking for young pen pals for other children.
9. Travel in Germany
If it is uncertain whether you can enter other countries and it is written in the stars that you must go into quarantine after your return, you’ll probably prefer to spend your vacation in Germany. Maybe Fehmarn, the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Lake Constance or the Harz Mountains will be a worthwhile alternative to a flight in the future.
The shorter the distance you travel, the better it is for the environment (as long as you don’t travel by foot or by bike). At Quarks or Green Mobility you can calculate the CO² emissions for your trip. If Germany doesn’t seem appealing enough or old-fashioned to you, let German Roamers inspire you. I’m sure they it will awaken your German wanderlust.
10. Hand washing
You should think that something as mundane as handwashing would have been cultivated as a habit by everyone even before Covid-19. However, a 2018 study by SRH University of Applied Sciences in Heidelberg found that this is by no means the case. Only 8% of toilet users washed their hands thoroughly with soap and water. 11% of men even refrained from washing their hands altogether. Correctly performed hand hygiene not only helps against corona viruses, but also against infection with other viruses and bacteria.
In January 2021, however, the Robert Koch Institute reported that the number of cases of other notifiable infectious diseases had declined significantly between March and the beginning of August 2020. In addition to hand hygiene, other Corona measures are of course also responsible for the fact that diseases and pathogens such as the flu, chickenpox and norovirus caused up to 35 percent fewer cases of illness. Nevertheless, frequent and proper hand washing is a habit that no one should break.
Incidentally, the lower incidence of infectious diseases also has a direct impact on the environment. According to the German Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, the pharmaceutical industry turned over 768 million euros in 2019 with cold remedies alone. The fact that there is great potential for savings can already be guessed from the old folk wisdom, which says that a cold lasts a week without medication and 7 days with medication. With this in mind: Stay healthy!